U.S. Holocaust museum to display Syria torture photos

Professor David M. Crane (L), former Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone attend a news conference April 15, 2014. (File photo: AFP)

A handful from the thousands of photographs that surfaced in July allegedly showing starved, burned and bruised bodies of Syrian torture victims will go on display at the U.S. Holocaust Museum on Wednesday, Yahoo News reported.

The U.S. State Department obtained some 27,000 photographs in July showing tthe effects of torture in Syria's prisons on victims' bodies.

They were smuggled out of the war torn country by an official Syrian regime photographer who defected and is now living in Europe.

Caesar, the code name adopted by the photographer, testified in a closed-door session before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee in July.

While the Syrian government has denied the authenticity of the photos, FBI agents informally told a senior U.S. diplomat “they think it is impossible they could be forgeries” and that “there is no evidence of doctoring.”

The photos are “horrific,” Stephen J. Rapp, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues said.

“Some of them put you in visceral pain,” he told Yahoo News.

During the first waves of protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in 2011, Caesar, then a military police officer, was tasked to lead a team of 11 photographers to document the deaths of detainees that had been brought to a military hospital from three detention centers in Damascus.

By the summer of 2013, he was sickened by what he had seen, he told investigators.

“I can’t do this anymore,” he told the Syrian rebels he contacted in 2013, according to David Crane, a former war-crimes prosecutor for Sierra Leone who spent hours interviewing Caesar.

Crane was employed by the Qatari government to conduct an investigation of the authenticity of the photos independent to that of the U.S.

The images show “an industrial killing machine not seen since the Holocaust,” he said.

Caesar smuggled the photos to rebels in thumb drives he hid in his shoes, Crane said. Before leaving Syria in August 2013, the photographer faked his own death in an elaborate ploy to keep his family safe.

Caesar had been called to testify by Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“My father had taken photos at Dachau [one of the first Nazi concentration camps] when it was liberated, of the bodies stacked up at the ovens. This is eerily reminiscent. It’s absolutely appalling,” he said.

The deaths were systematically carried out Crane said, pointing to the identification tags carrying letters and numbers seen on the victim’s bodies.

After speaking before the U.N. Security Council about the photos in support of a French-sponsored resolution that sought to establish an international war-crimes tribunal for Syria, Crane said U.S. ambassador Samantha Power “was blinking back tears.”

“Nobody who sees these images will ever be the same,” she said in a statement in April, Yahoo News reported.

 

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